One cold, dark, beautiful morning…

vt in october

I wrote this post almost nine years ago, in November 2009. My life looks very different now — I no longer need to lay out my children’s clothes, for one thing, thank goodness! — but the main message, that we all need support and friendship, is particularly on point for me right now. 

When I originally wrote this post I didn’t have a true friend with whom to share intellectual conversation or a listening ear over coffee or wine. But just a couple of days ago a relatively new friend, whom I feel so, so fortunate to have in my life, and I were talking about how important interpersonal relationships are and in particular how incredibly vital it is for women to surround themselves with other strong and supportive women. I re-post this today in honor of my dear friend and all the other women out there who believe in the power and beauty of women who hold each other up. Thank you.

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Yesterday I dragged myself out of bed an hour earlier than usual. The coffee wasn’t on, and, because I had forgotten to do so the night before, I had to lay out the kid’s school clothes and get their backpacks ready in the dark and cold. I dug out my own dusty winter coat and gloves, kissed my sleeping children goodbye, and went out to my chilly car.

As I huddled over the steering wheel I wondered if this trip was worth it. But as I wound along a road that hugged the feet of golden tree-shod mountains, through small villages and farmland where woodsmoke and cow breath was visible in the frosty air, I realized the journey itself was more than worth it. When I arrived at Hildene, the summer home of President Lincoln’s only son, Robert Todd Lincoln, in Manchester, VT the mist hovered over the mountains, muting the splendor of fall foliage. Oh, Vermont!

Inside I found the room I was looking for – warm and smelling of coffee. A small group of women were chatting over their paper cups and I suddenly felt shy and lacking in confidence. But a friendly woman shook and my hand and welcomed me to WBON: Women Business Owners Network.

The speaker, Chris Berkhout of Alchemy Productions, was funny and shared great information about making goals, sticking to them, and being confident your own ability to get where you want to be. She spoke about how writing down what you want makes it happen. I know this so well! My writing refuge is just one example .

The camaraderie in the room was inspiring; although a new “business” woman and feeling inferior, maybe even doubting that what I was doing was a business, I felt accepted and motivated. We were not a bunch of catty women competing against or judging each other, we were there to offer advice, encouragement, and… business cards, lots of business cards.

I once had a boyfriend who was so deeply stuck in his own creative rut that he couldn’t see over the sides into the real world. He believed if he stayed in his room practicing his art night after night that he would one day “make it big.” He didn’t think he needed anyone else’s input, inspiration, guidance, or even fellowship. When I mentioned he might consider getting a mentor (at the suggestion of my professional artist father) he flipped out and accused me of thinking he wasn’t a real artist and not believing in his talent. Our relationship never recovered from my offense.

I confess I would probably have had the same response. I used to believe that if I couldn’t do something well without help or practice then I obviously lacked the natural talent and shouldn’t be even attempting it. I have applied this philosophy to piano playing, singing, art, and most recently, giving birth and parenting (I still struggle with that one). But the truth is, we all need help. Just like the flower needs the bee to help it fulfill its own destiny, we all need the input of others in order to discover our full potential. It is not a weakness to seek out assistance – it is a strength. Utilizing other people’s strengths can only give you more stability and resistance. No two people think exactly the same which means we can all offer each other something new – maybe even better.

This is why I came away from this meeting of fellow business women feeling sturdier. I now know I have a buttress of local, creative, ambitious, imaginative, self-believing women to whom I can turn for help and connection. Although I already believed in myself and my dreams, knowing this made the cold, dark morning a truly beautiful one.

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The power of voice

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I have long known the power of song. Whether sitting in the audience or on the risers myself, it is a rare time that the tears don’t immediately spring to my eyes at the first note. I am usually blubbering by beat three, tissues whipped out and sniffling muffled. OK, I exaggerate (slightly). What I don’t exaggerate is the effect of the human voice; alone, harmonizing with other voices or unified with the resonance of the instruments.

This past Saturday I sang in a concert that spoke to the larger power of voice and song. It was the third Concert for Peace held at the Unitarian Univeralist Church in Burlington, VT. Six choirs from around the state filled (every last seat) of the balcony: An all-woman’s barbershop group whose voices blended like coffee and cream, a self-conducted choir who sang a funky but fantastic work song from the country of Georgia, a chorus whose director asks for no audition just a love of singing (and you could tell they did), a heavenly-voiced children’s choir, a six-person group (members of Counterpoint, Vermont only professional choir conducted by the incomparable Robert DeCormier) who did not sing as much as ring. Each choir sang their individual pieces (and can I just say that my choir ROCKED THE HOUSE!?) but the time I felt the true power was when every singer and audience member stood and in perfect unison sang John Lennon’s Imagine.

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Earlier we had been introduced to the founder of The Good Earth Singers, who is “healing the planet, one voice at a time” and we also heard the story of how the troops of World War I stopped fighting one Christmas Day and sang together a top their foxholes.

The power of voice, the power of song, the power of people coming together. If all the world could sing together there could be no war. When we sing together we hear how every voice is as important and special as the next. And together each of us have the power to affect another person’s heart. I know because I cried. The audience cried. The conductor cried. God(dess) is crying too because when we sing it all seems so clear and easy. Singing together gives a glimpse of the way the world should and could be.

Yes, I can imagine – and it looks and sounds like a choir forming their individual voices into one enveloping blanket of beautiful sound.

P.S. I just heard that the Public Radio International show “To the Best of Our Knowledge” is broadcasting a show on this exact topic… I love synchronicity! Here’s the link: http://www.wpr.org/book/101003a.cfm

Prompt: You may say I’m a dreamer but….

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